2021 Cars.co.za Consumer Awards winners announced


The sixth edition of the Cars.co.za Consumer Awards – powered by WesBank– has made its television broadcast debut, thereby broadening the #CarsAwards reach to a wider audience.


Since 2015/16, the winners of the annual #CarsAwards have been announced at a gala event early in the year, but owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the planned 2021 event could unfortunately not be staged live without putting attendees’ health at risk…


04/11/2020 – #CarsAwards (Photo by Roarke Bouffe / Cars.co.za)

Therefore, the 13 category winners and the recipient of the Brand of the Year title of the 2020/21 programme were announced during the Cars.co.za Consumer Awards TV presentation. It was broadcast on DStv’s Motorsport HD channel on February 15. The theme for this year’s #CarsAwards was ‘Be Part of the Journey – My Car, My Freedom.’


“In these unprecedented times, it’s more crucial than ever to ensure the car decisions we, as consumers make, are well informed and make our ownership journey as simple as possible,” said Ghana Msibi, WesBank’s CEO of Motor.


04/11/2020 – #CarsAwards (Photo by Roarke Bouffe / Cars.co.za)

“With the sixth edition of the consumer awards, WesBank is proud to be associated with giving consumers the freedom of informed decision-making. Our OEMs continue to produce excellent products, and we are proud to be part of celebrating their hard work. I want to say, well done to all the nominees and congratulations to the winners,” he added.


The #CarsAwards was conceived to be South Africa’s definitive automotive awards programme. The list of vehicles it recognises is meant to guide car buyers to make the best-informed purchasing decisions. The judging panel evaluates vehicles directly against their peers in specific categories. Each category has particular requirements. What’s more, 50% of the final scores is based on brand-specific after-sales data that incorporate customer feedback from thousands of South African vehicle owners.



  • 04/11/2020 – #CarsAwards (Photo by Roarke Bouffe / Cars.co.za)

    By winning the #CarsAwards Brand of the Year title for a third time, Toyota has become the most prolific winner of the programme’s most prestigious trophy. The Japanese marque was previously tied with Suzuki with two major titles apiece.

  • Toyota won five of the 13 vehicle categories of the 2020/21 programme, followed by Volkswagen, which got three trophies. Although Toyota increased its historic tally of category wins to 9, it still trailed Volkswagen’s total number of wins (19).
  • Derivatives of the Volkswagen Polo, Golf GTI and T-Cross, as well as the Toyota Fortuner, defended their category victories from the 2019/20 programme. The Golf GTI racked up its 5th category win in the 6-year history of the #CarsAwards, while the Fortuner defended its title for an unprecedented third consecutive year.
  • Although Suzuki didn’t win the Budget Car category for a fifth year in a row, a Swift derivative clinched a category win (Entry Level Car) for a third consecutive time. The Polo 1.0 TSI Comfortline also won its category for a third year in a row.
  • 04/11/2020 – #CarsAwards (Photo by Roarke Bouffe / Cars.co.za)

    Land Rover/Range Rover won the Premium SUV category with the new Defender and improved by 12 positions to finish third in the Brand of the Year rankings.

  • In no fewer than four of the 13 categories (Budget Car, Family Car, Hot Hatch and Leisure Double Cab) the judges’ favourites did not win. This was owing to the impact of data from the Cars.co.za Ownership Satisfaction Survey – more details to follow.
  • The narrowest victory margin (0.01%) was in the Compact Family Car category. The largest (7.86%) was in Entry Level Car. Premium SUV had the smallest gap between first and third place (0.69%) and Family Car the biggest (11.79%).


04/11/2020 – #CarsAwards (Photo by Roarke Bouffe / Cars.co.za)

If one counts Land Rover and Range Rover as one (the brands are listed as such in the Brand of the Year rankings), 18 brands were represented in the final round. Toyota and Suzuki led with 5 contenders each. They were followed by Volkswagen (4), BMW (3) and Volvo (3).


Category winners: 2020/21 #CarsAwards – powered by WesBank

  • Budget Car – Toyota Starlet 1.4 XR
  • Compact Hatch – Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI Comfortline Auto
  • Compact Family Car – Volkswagen T-Cross 1.5 TSI 110kW R-Line
  • Entry Level Car – Suzuki Swift 1.2 GL
  • Family Car – Toyota RAV4 2.0 AWD GX-R
  • 04/11/2020 – #CarsAwards (Photo by Roarke Bouffe / Cars.co.za)

    Adventure SUV – Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4×4 VX Auto

  • Premium SUV – Land Rover Defender D240 HSE
  • Executive SUV – Volvo XC60 D5 R-Design
  • Crossover – Toyota C-HR 1.2T Luxury
  • Premium Crossover – Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
  • Hot hatch – Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
  • Leisure Double Cab – Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 4×4 Legend Auto
  • Sports Executive – BMW 330is Edition


Impact of the Cars.co.za Ownership Satisfaction Survey

Fifty per cent of the final scores of the category finalists were determined by the rankings the vehicles’ respective brands achieved in the Cars.co.za Ownership Satisfaction Survey. This was in partnership with data specialists Lightstone Consumer. The data was based on owners’ experiences of their vehicles (less than for years old and serviced through franchised outlets). It affected the results in four #CarsAwards categories.


The Toyota Starlet (Budget Car) and Hilux (Leisure Double Cab), plus the Volkswagen T-Cross (Compact Family Car) and Golf GTI TCR (Hot Hatch) did not score the highest marks from the panel of judges following the evaluation. Yet, they emerged victorious because consumers rated their brands’ experiences higher than those of their competitors.


“Right from the outset, the #CarsAwards was conceived to take a practical and usable approach to deciding the winners,” said Cars.co.za Consumer Experience Manager, Hannes Oosthuizen. “Our Awards programme is meant to be used as a buying guide that reaches the entire population, not only those who follow motoring publications.”


04/11/2020 – #CarsAwards (Photo by Roarke Bouffe / Cars.co.za)

“With 50% of a vehicle’s final score determined by a brand’s performance in the survey, a car really only stands a very good chance of winning if it is a good product in the eyes of the judges and if the brand delivers solid after-sales service,” he adds.


In the Family Car, Adventure SUV and Crossover categories, the winning cars received both the highest consumer category and judges’ scores. In Entry Level Car, Compact Hatch, Premium Crossover, Executive SUV, Premium SUV and Sports Executive, the winners received the highest judges’ scores, but not the highest consumer scores.


Multifaceted judging process

04/11/2020 – #CarsAwards (Photo by Roarke Bouffe / Cars.co.za)

The winners of the #CarsAwards aren’t chosen exclusively by motoring journalists who produce content about the latest new vehicles in the market. The finalists were selected from the entire passenger-vehicle market (all derivatives listed on the new-vehicles price list on 1 October 2020), as opposed to only models launched during the past 12 months.


Although Cars.co.za’s editorial team chose the finalists, the combined judging panel (including 14 guest judges from various backgrounds and fields of expertise) only compiled the finalists’ individual scores once they evaluated the cars back-to-back during a two-day test at the Gerotek testing facility in 2020. Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the thoroughness of the evaluation programme, supervised by PricewaterhouseCoopers, was not affected.


04/11/2020 – #CarsAwards (Photo by Roarke Bouffe / Cars.co.za)

The combined judging panel (in alphabetical order):

Khulekani Dumisa (Khulekani on Wheels), Aluta Maqoko (Entrepreneur), Juliet McGuire (Freelance), Brenwin Naidu (Sowetan & Sunday Times), Leanne Manas (Morning Live), Dasen Thathiah (eNCA), Ciro de Siena (Cars.co.za), Nafisa Akabor (Tech Journalist), David Taylor (Cars.co.za), Ernest Page (Performance with Page), Jacob Moshokoa (Eyewitness News), Phuti Mpyane (Business Day), Wendy Knowler (Consumer Specialist), Mpho Letsholonyane (SuperSport & Power 98.7), Wezile Bonani (Bay FM), Gero Lilleike (Cars.co.za), Kojo Baffoe (Freelance), Thami Masemola (In4Ride), Ashley Oldfield (Cars.co.za) and Lerato Matebese (Top Gear).


Brand of the Year

04/11/2020 – #CarsAwards (Photo by Roarke Bouffe / Cars.co.za)

As opposed to the 13 category winners, which were decided by a combination of judges’ scores and consumer data, the recipient of the #CarsAwards Brand of the Year title was determined entirely by market data and the findings of the survey. Brands’ respective sales and after-sales service ratings were particularly impactful, as were the percentages of purchase-price value the brands’ finalists retained after three years of ownership.


Although Toyota failed to win a single category during the first two instalments of the #CarsAwards, the Prospecton-based manufacturer famously won the programme’s very first Brand of the Year title in 2015/16. After Suzuki claimed the Brand of the Year title for two consecutive years (2016/17 and 2017/18), Toyota secured the most prestigious trophy again in the 2018/19 programme but finished well behind Volkswagen in 2019/20.


However, having won 5 of the 13 #CarsAwards categories in the 2020/21 #CarsAwards and moving up no fewer than eight places in the Ownership Satisfaction Survey rankings since last year, Toyota won the #CarsAwards Brand of the Year title for a third time. In doing so, it became the most prolific winner of the programme’s most prestigious trophy.


Behind Toyota, Mini finished second, having moved up 5 positions from 2019/20. Land Rover/Range Rover was in a sensational third place. Volkswagen was fourth and Isuzu fifth.


“The Brand of the Year trophy is the ultimate accolade in the local automotive industry. It represents validation from the people who matter most: car owners,” says Oosthuizen.


“By providing consistently superior after-sales support through the most extensive dealer network in the country, Toyota has put South African consumers first and – based on the feedback by thousands of vehicle owners – they evidently appreciate that.”


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